Crossing the road to where the wagon stood, sheltered
beneath a stand of oaks, Eowyn could scarcely contain herself.
Calm down, Melmenya, said Legolas, or you will
have an apoplexy, which was a saying he had heard Men use
under similar circumstances, though he had no idea what it meant.
He unlocked the door, and Eowyn rushed into the cabin, and seized
the map. Here it is, she said, breathlessly. Legolas
sat down beside her. The second glade, just west of the
path to Halifirien and the seventh beacon. See, it is not named.
Because Berryn did not know its name...
That is right. She traced the line of Great West
Road, westwards. And here, she said, are the
manor and village of Mereworth,she measured the distance
with her fingersonly ten miles away. She looked
up at Legolas. What do we do first?
We must go to Wyrms Hollow first, said Legolas,
decisively. If there is any chance of finding the bodies,
Melmenya, they must be our main concern.
They checked their provisions and, whilst Eowyn was hitching
the horses, Legolas went back into the town and bought bread from
the tavern (because, his wife argued, they would be fools to eat
anything made by the poisoning baker), cheese from the dairymaids,
and a fruit pie from one of the housewives.
Then they turned the wagon round and drove back into Firien Wood,
crossing the Mering Bridge at about midday, and stopping beside
the first of the standing stones, which marked the way to Halifirien,
The path is narrow, said Legolas, bringing a big
smile to Eowyns face. And far too steep for the horses,
Melmenya. We will have to climb it on foot.
Eowyn changed into her jerkin and leggings, and strapped on her
sword; Legolas, having stowed the food and some extra clothing
in his travelling pack, checked his bow, arrows, and quiver, examined
his white knives, and slung everything across his back.
Then the couple freed the horses to graze and, with an Avo
visto, set out.
Though the sun was at its zenith, the trees were dense along
Firien-dale and the path was shrouded in darkness, the gloom broken
only rarely by pale splashes of light that, far from bringing
relief, illuminated lurid fungi and teeming insects, which Eowyn
would rather not have seen. High above her, magpies cursed and
crebain cawed; all around her, unknown creatures rustled and grunted,
reminding her of the great Boar of Everholt that had gored poor
King Folca to death...
Do you still sense evil? she asked.
So do I. She looked around, warily. I should
not be surprised if Baldor had stationed a few serfsor even
a glam of orcshere to deter visitors.
Legolas stopped, and turned back to face her. Then the
best strategy, Melmenya, he said, softly, is to be
very, very quiet.
Eowyn brought her forefinger and thumb up to her mouth, and pinched
her lips closed.
Legolas grinned and, stooping, kissed her forehead.
But very quiet was easy for an Elf to say. Eowyn
soon found that climbing up a steep path paved with uneven stones,
in near darkness, without breathing heavily, or gasping when she
stumbled, or yelping when she turned an ankle, was very hard indeed.
They had been walking for almost an hour when the path suddenly
turned into a raised stone causeway, and crossed a broad clearing,
carpeted with reeds.
Moss, said Eowyn, poking the boggy ground with her
sword. This must be Folcas Glade. She sheathed
her weapon and unrolled her map. Yes... Look, the path will
veer east in a few hundred yards. At this rate, Lassui, we shall
reach Wyrms Hollow just before dusk.
Legolas uncorked his waterskin and passed it to her. We
must find somewhere to spend the night, Melmenya, he said,
and then begin the search at first light.
Wyrms Hollow was a spoon-shaped valley, some two hundred
yards at its widest and perhaps a quarter mile in length, bordered
to the north, south, and east by steep rock walls.
Now that I see it, said Eowyn, surveying the field
of dense colour stretching out before her, I find it hard
to believe that anything really bad could have happened here...
Legolas followed her gaze. The entire hollow was
crammed with purple-red flowers, which to Eowyn clearly spoke
of innocence, but to him hinted at some violent disturbance, some
tainting of the foresta shivering pool, blood-red in the
waning light, with a cloying scent that reminded him of the orc
carcasses he had seen burning on the Plains of Rohan.
He scanned the cliffs for a suitable camp site. Over there,
he said at last, pointing to a ledge high up on the northern wall.
We will be safe up there. Can you climb, Melmenya, or shall
I carry you?
Eowyn laughed. That is a very tempting offer, Lassui,
she said, but my honour insists that I climb.
He took her by the hand and they waded into the purple-red sea
until they reached the foot of the rock wall, and scrambled up.
Legolas shrugged off his pack and, whilst Eowyn arranged the bedrolls
and laid out the food, he went back into valley to gather some
fire wood. Then, after the sun had gone down, they sat in the
firelight, and they ate, and talked, and Legolas opened a box
of sweetmeats he had taken from their stocks, and they shared
happy memoriesEowyn holding Melannens toy rabbituntil
Eowyn grew tired.
Some time later, feeling warm and safe in Legolas arms,
Eowyn looked out across Wyrms Hollow.
In the soft moonlight, something was moving, hovering above the
lightly waving Dragon Flame. Lassui, she whispered,
look. Is that the spirits? Or is it just mist?
Legolas looked. But he could discern nothing human about the
apparitions, and the overwhelming sense of sadness and loss that
hung upon the air did not seem any greater for their presence.
Eowyn awoke with a start, sensing her husbands distress.
Legolas? What is wrong?
The sun had risen and, at the western end of Wyrms Hollow,
the Dragon Flame was glistening like amethyst in the morning light.
Legolas was sitting on the edge of the rocky platform, his legs
Lassui? Eowyn wriggled out of her bedroll,
and crawled to his side.
It would take us days to search this place thoroughly,
Melmenya, he said, sadly.
Eowyn nodded. Even if we cut down the plants as we went,
she agreed, thinking aloud. I suppose we could burn them...
Doing evil to expose evil?
To expose a much greater evil.
Is it, Melmenya? Surely poisoning an ancient forest is
the greatest evil of all?
The forest will recover from this, Lassui, said Eowyn,
firmly. With our help. You have proved that, in Eryn Carantaur.
She squeezed his arm. I say we start the search over there.
She pointed to where they had seen the mist rising during the
night. If we find nothing, we will continue in a line until
we reach the rocks over there. Then we will move a few yards over,
and search along a parallel line
I do not want to spend another night here, Melmenya.
Then we will finish before dusk and, whether we have found
anything or not, we will go back to the wagon. The road is good.
We can be in Meringburn for supper.
They worked diligently until midday, then climbed back up to
their refuge, and ate a simple meal of bread and cheese and fruit
pie before continuing with the search, criss-crossing the little
valley in straight lines with the aid of a length of Elven rope.
The ground was ashy, and Eowyns feet stirred up a cloud
of filthy dust as she shuffled forwards, her back bent
It is time to go, Melmenya, said Legolas, with obvious
Eowyn glanced around. Their search was recorded as ruts in the
Dragon Flame, and she was shocked to see how little of the hollow
they had covered. You fetch our things, Lassui, she
said, wearily. I want to carry on until I reach the rocks.
She watched him for a moment, striding across the clearing and
climbing gracefully up the cliff, then she turned, and ploughed
Anything? he asked, rejoining her a few moments later.
Come, then. He held out his hand, and Eowyn took
a step towards him
And something crunched beneath her feet.
Wait, she cried, looking down at her boots, wait,
wait... Oh! Oh, Lassui, look!
She stepped backwards, and Legolas peered into the gap she had
left behind. Then he drew out one of his white knives and, crouching
down and working carefully, he cut away the stems of Dragon Flame
to reveal the bones of a finger, which soon became an entire hand,
which joined to a wrist, and extended into a forearm, and then
ended abruptly, just below the elbow, in a pile of white ash.
He looked up at Eowyn.
Keep going, she whispered.
Legolas continued cutting, slowly exposingin piles of ash
and the odd fragment of bonethe outline of an entire human
Eowyn reached down beside the head, and picked up a small object.
It was a jewel, such as a rich man might wear pinned to his velvet
capa golden wolf, intricately detailed, its body inlaid
with fragments of the deepest purple-brown stone. This is
a family crest, Lassui, she said.
They tramped back to the wagon.
Eowyn sat down on the rear steps, pulled off her dirty boots
and dumped them on the ground. How do Elves stay so clean?
she asked, foreven after having lived with one for two yearsit
was still a mystery to her. It is not just your face and
hair, Lassui; your clothes are spotless, too.
No, they are not, Melmenya! he replied, smiling as
he drew some water from the barrel. Come inside, and we
He set the bowl of water upon the table and, helping her out
of her clothes, dampened a cloth and gently wiped her face, her
arms and hands, her legs and feet...
What are we going to do now? asked Eowyn.
Legolas sat back on his heels. The forest is hopeful,
Good! Then I think we should stay here tonight, and go
back to Wyrms Hollow in the morning. Because, if we could
just find the others... She picked up the golden wolf, and
held it in the candle light.
Do you recognise the crest, Melmenya?
She shook her head. No. But perhaps it was Holdreds.
Or another rich suitors.
We should leave it out tonight, she said. Because
it mightyou knowbring its owner here.
But the couple were not disturbed during the night, and the following
morning they cut six pieces of tarpaulin from their stocks and,
rolling them up and lashing them to Legolas travelling pack,
set out for Wyrms Hollow.
Several hours later, working in unseasonal heat, they had exposed
two more bodiesone an exceptionally tall, well-built man;
the other a small, slight figure, girt with a little knife-belt,
of which the buckle, the point of the scabbard, and the small,
fine blade of the knife, blackened by flame, remained.
But around the three figures lay a border of empty ground several
yards wide; the trail had gone cold.
Legolas uncorked his waterskin and handed it to Eowyn and, after
carefully rinsing the dust from her fingers, and dribbling some
over her head, she took a few sips of water. The small one
could be a woman, she said, thoughtfully. But
I do not think we have found Deorhild or Guthwyn, Lassui. I do
not know why, but I picture them lying together, clinging to one
another... She looked out across the field of waving Dragon
Flame, turning crimson in the failing light. It is time
Legolas unrolled three of the tarpaulins and, murmuring, Hiro
hyn hîdh abwanath, laid them over the ashes.
Eowyn, meanwhile, had gathered some stones. Do you think
we can trust the landlord, Lassui? she asked, handing them
to Legolas, one at a time.
Yes, I do, he replied, weighting down the tarpaulins.
She nodded. Then I think we should take him into our confidencenot
about the spirits, perhapsbut we can say we know someone
who knew the women, which is true enough. And we can show him
the wolf, and the scabbard point, and see if he recognises them.
And if he does?
If he does, she said, we will act on whatever
he tells us. If he does not, we will come back here. With help.